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What’s notable about Rays’ Blake Snell this spring?

Rays Journal: The left-hander is focused, feeling good and trying to expand the use of his slider against righty batters.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell signs autographs for fans during spring baseball practice Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 in Port Charlotte, Fla. [OCTAVIO JONES | AP]

PORT CHARLOTTE — Blake Snell is feeling good, which is saying something coming off a 2019 season marred by a fractured toe and surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.

But after an impressive first session throwing to hitters Thursday, Snell said he is “more focused” this spring and locked in on what he wants to accomplish during the season.

“Every year I feel like I know more about myself and the direction I want to go,’’ Snell, 27, said. “Coming in this spring I’m really driven toward a lot of goals that I set for myself, and I really want to make them happen.’’

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He isn’t sharing specifics, but getting back to his 2018 Cy Young Award-winning form seems a reasonable assumption. The early going has been encouraging.

“I just feel good where I’m at with my pitches, the control I have for them for the most part,’’ Snell said. “I’m pretty excited about how it feels right now coming out of my hand.’’

One spring goal is to throw his slider more effectively, and thus more frequently, to right-handed hitters, feeling that will give him a true four-pitch arsenal, complementing his fastball, changeup and a curve that he says is moving better than last year as a result of the surgery. He threw the slider well several times Thursday, and he also broke Randy Arozarena’s bat on a changeup.

Manager Kevin Cash said he has been impressed.

“He looked awesome,’’ Cash said. “Blake has had a little bit of confidence this spring. It looked like he put some weight in his lower half to get stronger. It looked really easy (Thursday). He was really committed to fine-tuning.’’

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Screen grab

As in past years, the Rays set screens up across the infield of one of the batting practice fields to encourage players to hit the ball in the air more. Cash said it’s one of several tactics they will use occasionally to help hitters in different ways. “Just continuing to tinker to see if there is something visually that can help benefit the guys,’’ he said. “Most of them all know the history, what’s taken place the last 3-4 years with research into hitting, that helping your trajectory generally correlates to a better hitter, or better results.’’

Clubhouse crooner

The annual Rays Idol clubhouse singing competition ended in a tie, even after a sing-off, between Vidal Brujan (using work from Dominican artist El Alfa) and Arozarena (Bad Bunny’s Chambea). Rules seem a bit pliable, but first-time additions to the 40-man roster are supposed to participate, and others can volunteer. Lucius Fox and Ronaldo Hernandez sang; Yoshi Tsutsugo, a 10-year veteran in Japan, did not sing. “Brujan put on a show, he really did. He has some moves,’’ said Willy Adames, the 2018 winner. “Randy was maybe not at the same level of energy but was really good, too. It was a good show today.’’

Quote of the day

“He buckles you with some of those breaking balls even though you’re not in the box.’’ — Cash, on how right-hander Charlie Morton looked to be “in midseason form” throwing his first live batting practice

Miscellany

The Rays will have an abbreviated full-squad workout starting around 10:30 this morning at Charlotte Sports Park (2300 El Jobean Road). … Reliever Chaz Roe, coming off December left knee surgery, said he felt good after throwing his first batting practice. … Slimmed-down Nate Lowe looked good taking ground balls at third, where he will get most of his work early in camp, then later at his natural position of first base. … Travis Thomas, a leadership/team development specialist with the U.S. men’s national soccer team and a former improv comedian, will address the team Friday. … Tsutsugo is slated to debut playing leftfield in Sunday’s home exhibition opener against the Yankees, then DH on Monday against the Red Sox. … Trevor Richards is slated to start Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Red Sox in Fort Myers; lefty Ryan Yarbrough will start Sunday.

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